Health and Social Care organisations in Northern Ireland have commended the commitment and professionalism of staff across the health and social care system who have worked tirelessly throughout the holiday period to ensure that patients receive the care they need as quickly and safely as possible.
Emergency Departments across hospitals in Northern Ireland continue to be under significant pressure. This is a similar position to health services right across the UK.
Health and social care colleagues across Trusts, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Primary Care are working together to address pressures and staff continue to prioritise the most clinically urgent patients. Regrettably, those with less urgent conditions will have to wait longer.
In the period from Saturday 24th December to Monday 1st January (inclusive), a total of 15,626 patients were treated in the main Type 1 Emergency Departments. This represented an increase of 4% (559 patients) compared to last year and a 14% increase (1856) compared to 2015/16.
Unfortunately 928 people had to wait longer than 12 hours to be seen, treated and either discharged or admitted to hospital.
“A spokesperson for the HSCB said: “Plans have been put in place across the Health and Social Care system to manage increased pressures at this time of year. However, as a result of increased demand on top of an already very busy system, the level of complex and serious conditions, particularly amongst the growing frail and elderly population, the prevalence of flu and other respiratory conditions at this time of year, and the challenges of helping patients to return home after a hospital stay, some patients have had to wait more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital. We fully understand the upset and inconvenience this causes to patients and their families and apologise to them for it.
“We can assure the public that anyone who needs to use an Emergency Department for urgent or life threatening conditions will continue to receive access to safe, high quality services from our highly skilled and committed staff.
“The public are reminded that they should only attend hospital Emergency Departments for urgent and life threatening conditions. There are a range of alternative services that people can access if they do not need emergency care. These include using the online A-Z symptom checker, seeking advice from a pharmacist, going to a Minor Injury Unit, or contacting a GP or the GP Out of Hours services (if their medical condition can’t wait until the GP surgery reopens). People can also check the average waiting times in their local Emergency Department